How to keep SQUARE

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Forum topic by synecdoche posted 08-12-2012 11:36 PM 3390 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 2324 days

08-12-2012 11:36 PM

Topic tags/keywords: newbie question planing squaring beginners pine milling

I’m building my first ever project, a very basic flip-top table (I modified these plans to fit my space a bit better, and used 2×2s instead of stair rails) for my wife and I to throw our keys on as we come in the door. It’s a very simple build made simpler with the use of pocket screws.

At any rate, everything’s going okay except I can’t make things square! It’s the wood. I have a limited workshop—just a very basic table saw, a drill, a Kreg Jig, and an old workbench that was in the basement of the house when we moved in. I don’t have access to a planer or a jointer. I’ve had some success using the table saw as a jointer, but some of the pine from the local lumber yard was, in spite of my best efforts, a bit warped, or it crowned, et cetera.

Is there some trick to selecting lumber? Or should I just start trolling e-bay for cheap planes? I wouldn’t ask, but in my research on the Internet I keep seeing people’s “first projects” that look far, far more impressive than the little stand that’s currently waiting in the corner to be finished, with nary a mention of planing or anything like that.

Any advice for a complete newbie?

4 replies so far

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2515 days

#1 posted 08-13-2012 12:28 AM

Without the use of a planer or jointer, the only way I know to try and square up a board with a table saw is to set the fence to take off a minor amount, maybe a blade width. Run it through, even though you know the side against the fence may not be square. Then flip it, and run the fresh cut against the fence, again taking the same minor amount. From there, you are about as parallel on the two sides as you’re gonna get, considering your tool selection.
Take a framing square, (hopefully one that is actually square), and using one fresh cut side, mark off an end and make sure you cut it exactly on the pencil line EDGE. This will give you three square sides. Using the same first fresh cut, flip the framing square around and mark the other end and repeat. You should now have a fairly square board, (hopefully), and you can go from there, knowing you are about as square as you probably need to be.
You can check your work by measuring from Left top to right bottom, then right top to left bottom corners. The measurements should be within a 32nd of an inch or so, square enough for your project. If not, the board is not yet square.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View StumpyNubs's profile


7592 posts in 2801 days

#2 posted 08-13-2012 12:42 AM

I have found that using pine from the box stores is a mistake for furniture. I’m not sure if that’s what you are doing, but if you are it is always going to give you problems because it isn’t dry enough. If I had to do it I would buy the driest I could and let it set in the room the finished piece is going to be kept in for a month or so to acclimate.

Keeping a project square usually is just a matter of careful cutting and assembling. But making a cupped, warped or twisted board flat is a whole different matter. If you lack the tools, you may just have to get it milled for you at the lumber dealer. Another reason why box store pine won’t work.

On the other hand, I have found that some stores, like Home Depot and Menards, sell premium clear pine and poplar. This is usually dried and milled much better. It is expensive when compared to the other stuff they sell, but it will be a much better option for someone without a planer and jointer. You can make that piece you linked to very nicely with that stuff.

As for buying a handplane to do it… if you do a limited amount of projects, it may be a good option for you. A scrub plane for fast thicknessing, a #5 and a #6 or #7 will do nicely. And they can be had for less than $50 each in very good condition on ebay. It’s a whole new set of skills to learn, but very rewarding once you get good at it.

That’s my two cents. Hope it helps!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2565 days

#3 posted 08-13-2012 02:52 AM

It might be a bit late on this project, but usually going to a lumber yard gets you better quality stuff for less money. And if you go to a good place you may be able to get some s4s stuff there…have fun and remember you will get better in time if you keep trying to improve

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View RetiredCoastie's profile


999 posts in 3184 days

#4 posted 08-13-2012 03:49 AM

I edge joint stock on my table saw all the time. I take a piece of mdf with a true edge and attach the stock i’m trying to square up to the mdf with double sided tape and run the true edge of the mdf against the fence. Just adjust the fence to allow narrow ripping. Once I have a true edge I remove the mdf and tape and run the true edge of the stock against the fence and true up the other edge. This is all done with a good quality rip blade.

As far as thickness planning Stumpy has the best idea. I wish I’d have learned to use planes a long time ago because he’s right it is satisfying when you have a good tuned plane and you shave off thin ribbons of wood.

If there is a cabinet shop in your area you may be able to get the stock milled or perhaps at a trade school.

-- Proud Supporter of Homes For Our Troops

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